November 5th, 2008
06:00 PM ET
10 years ago

Obama has choices for excess cash

There are strict federal guidelines on how unspent campaign funds may be used after the polls have closed.

There are strict federal guidelines on how unspent campaign funds may be used after the polls have closed.

(CNN) - So you’ve just finished a hard-fought campaign for federal office, and after paying off campaign expenses and debts, you find yourself with a tidy surplus of funds left over in your campaign coffers. What’s a candidate to do?

The campaign may be over, but there are strict federal guidelines on how unspent campaign funds may be used after the polls have closed and all the votes have been counted. Win or lose, candidates have a number of options available to them on how to dispose of any remaining funds in their campaign kitties, but not surprisingly, “personal use” is not one of the options.

Candidates with leftover funds may do any or all of the following:

· return the money back to the contributors;

· donate an unlimited amount to charity;

· donate an unlimited amount to a national, state, or local political party committee;

· contribute money to other candidates, subject to allowable federal contribution limits;

· convert their campaign committee into a political action committee;

· transfer the money to a future federal campaign account.

Therefore, if President-elect Barack Obama finds himself with a surplus of cash from his 2008 presidential campaign account, he could essentially use that money for a future federal campaign, say, a 2012 re-election bid.

The rules are slightly different for Republican nominee John McCain because he acceped public funding during the general election. McCain may exercise any of the above options when it comes to leftover funds from his primary or pre-convention campaign account. But any surplus funds from the taxpayer-financed $84.1 million he received after accepting the GOP nomination must be returned to the U.S. Treasury.

However, this may all be a moot point if both candidates spent most or all of their campaign warchests. Exactly how much money Obama and McCain have left in their accounts won’t be known until December 4 when the next file campaign finance reports with the Federal Election Commission.

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • John McCain
soundoff (544 Responses)
  1. Phillip - UC Berkeley

    jason- surprisingly, I agree with this.

    A few months ago I was so pissed off at Clinton because of her divisive and at times ruthless campaign, and the fact that she kept going even though it seemed pointless.

    Now that Obama has won, I have a different perspective; it seems like maybe after it became very improbable for Clinton to win the primary, she might perhaps have changed her goal, to continue campaigning in order to build up the defense of the future Democratic nominee to help prepare him to win the general election. And I think that whether this was truly her goal, or she was just holding onto that slim chance of winning, we should still be grateful. She is a great candidate and a great person.

    November 5, 2008 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  2. Algernon

    "Return the money back to the contributors?" Who wrote that sentence? "Return the money to the contributors" does the job.

    November 5, 2008 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  3. Allen

    I love how "Truth Hurts" does nothing but extend the stereotype of the typical extreme right-winger....closed-minded, anti-progress, bigoted, and thoroughly unable to debate intelligently or put forth coherent arguments without hate speech or fear mongering.

    November 5, 2008 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  4. Florida for Obama


    You think the White House is that stupid to allow Obama to run without a official Birth Certificate. I looked at his certificate. It is real. I was born in Hawaii. I know how the certificate looks like. So stop sounding like a fool.

    If his birth certificate was not real, you would think McCain would have add that to his kitchen sink.

    Get over it. Move on. Don't like Obama. Mexico is not too far away.

    November 5, 2008 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  5. Seriously

    He is also free to keep my money for 2012... and I will start sending him installments...

    November 5, 2008 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  6. Arthur James

    Well, he's already mentioned having a second term a few times, so it's easy to figure out, right?

    I wish him and all of us well, and, now that he's on the road to experience, I hope he uses a little bit of the money to buy the other thing he has sorely lacked – some integrity.

    He has a tendency to not do what he says he'll do – like say using public campaign financing, for instance, like he signed on the dotted line with John McCain to do, who DID keep his word. Obama broke his promise.

    So I'm worried he won't keep the promises he made to all of us either.

    Time will tell.

    November 5, 2008 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  7. stallie

    B.O. should spread the wealth of the left over contributions to people who do not work and do not want to work, PERIOD. That was his whole campaign, right?

    Or maybe he should send it to me since I lost more $$ today just as I predicted would happen the day after B.O. got elected. It was the worst post election day drop in DOW JONES history!!!! thanks B.O.

    November 5, 2008 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  8. therese st.amant

    Hillary"s loan could be refunded

    November 5, 2008 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  9. CV

    Wow truth hurts, you are just a little ball of hate aren't you. No need to be bitter. Be a good citizen and be positive. Things will be okay. Life is too short to be hating.

    November 5, 2008 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  10. Yes We Can

    I'm really proud of Obama for insighting such unity and just being an inspirational human. It's no surprise he has his transitional team in motion because this country is more than ready for the next phase in history. I wish he and his team all the best is preparing for success.

    November 5, 2008 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  11. Fordy

    The blogs have now been left open for all the bitter haters who cannot accept that Barrack 'Hussein' Obama is the President of the United States. LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    November 5, 2008 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  12. Becky, Midwest

    Well, he does have white relatives and white blood. Yes, he's biracial. But it reality he calls himself black. He did so to gain the black vote. That's the truth. He hides from his whiteness. Ashamed, I guess. He's not been honest about race.

    November 5, 2008 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  13. Puff

    i'm so proud that America in her wisdom transented race and color, finally realizing that the old hatred is a bastard no longer needed. giving all liberty to become one nation, one people, American

    November 5, 2008 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  14. MDB

    CNN should use spell check before they post articles to the Web.

    November 5, 2008 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  15. Ben

    Why doesn't he give it to all of those struggling Americans that he was "fighting" for?

    November 5, 2008 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  16. Bob Chippewa

    Obama can keep my money; maybe he can contribue a little to his favorite charity, give some the DNC; some to future Governship races;

    p.s. I love reading all the SORE loser comments; you know get over it, move on with your life, your man lost.

    November 5, 2008 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  17. dutch

    wow. you trolls still have the gall to speak up around here? after all the false predictions, slander and hatred you've pumped out in the last year? first of all, we gave obama the money, not you, so your calls for him to give it back are ridiculous. I love how you claim to be such patriots but when a commander in chief you dont agree with (or about whom you imagine wild conspiracies) takes office you are suddenly not so "country first". and now in the "coming days", you think we will learn the 'truth". The AMERICAN people have spoken. the first clear majority in decades. it reminds me of the fearmongering i heard in 2000 and 2004, how the real story was going to come out after the election, about how Teresa Heinz was secretly funding terrorists, how Al Gore had secret evil ambitions that were blindly driving him to power. But when the result many so called patriots sought came about, suddenly they went silent, crawled away and stood by idly while the country was lied into war, while an american city drowned, while CEOs robbed the people blind and factory after factory closed. and OBAMA is the problem? get a grip people, get help, get a prescription, get a life, anything to save us from the dull drone of your vast ignorance.

    November 5, 2008 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  18. cambridgestinker

    Please pay off my student loans... and then donate to the non profit that i will eventually work for once i am done with seminary 🙂

    November 5, 2008 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  19. Haley

    So many of you are so hateful, even after America has spoken! A majority choose him, now bask in the glory that is Barack Obama!

    P.S. TRUTH HURTS: I would rather be sold a used car than 2 wars and a bad economy!

    November 5, 2008 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  20. Imra K3 IL

    Give the money back to the people!

    November 5, 2008 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  21. Andy in Seattle

    Wow, lot of bitter McCain supporters still on here.

    Cry me a river, please. After 8 years of a terrible Bush and Republican administration, you're NOW worried about an Obama presidency? Give me a break. Go crawl in a hole if you don't want to participate.

    @Truth Hurts:
    Truth is, the general public wants Obama to be our president and he now is. Get over it.

    November 5, 2008 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  22. gwen

    It's time to be mature people! Grow up and accept the fact that Obama is our new president and that the majority of americans elected him because we trust him. If he chooses to save the money for 2012 that is his business, it was donated so that he can become president whether it be for four or eight years. If he gives it to charity that is good too. He is a smart man and will do with it as he sees fit. For all of the poor losers who feel they must still name call and try to run down their new president, I feel sorry for you. Why don't you try to go find drama elsewhere, another country would be good, why the rest of us clean up your current presidents mess!

    November 5, 2008 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  23. oh no

    Wow, not even in office yet and already so much negativity....., I bet the yahoos who are posting all the negatives are still holding out hope that some WMD's are found in Iraq to justify the war as well....

    November 5, 2008 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  24. Mark


    Senator John McCain was not a sore loser, and he understands that the promise of America's future vastly outweighs any differences in the present. My question to you is why are you so bitter? There is virtually no difference between the two parties on the idea and future of America, only on the path we should take to get there. So how about you stop posting hateful, bitter comments, and actually participate in American democracy past the election. Follow the bills introduced in Congress, and don't let political parties think for you.

    November 5, 2008 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  25. So Sad

    I know the truth hurst but nobody is hurting more than Truth Hurts, take a pill. All the lies and tricks (like the fliers telling democrats to vote Wednesday) just plain and simple did not work. The Truth Prevailed.

    November 5, 2008 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
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